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Mayor wants to privatize management of auditorium

[07/17/01] Mayor Laurence Leyens said Monday he wants to see the operation of the City Auditorium turned over to the management company that now oversees the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Leyens, who was sworn into office less than a month ago, introduced a proposal from Compass Facility Management Inc. for discussion during the regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Although there was little comment from the two aldermen during the time set aside for the discussion, North Ward Aldermen Gertrude Young indicated early in the meeting that the topic could be complicated.

“That’s going to be a long one,” Young said of adding the item to the agenda.

Young, who has overseen the auditorium over the past eight years, could not be reached for comment following the meeting.

In a written proposal from Steven Peters, president of the Iowa-based Compass proposed adding the auditorium to the current contract for managing the convention center at a cost of $2,000 per month. Compass took over the operations of the 4-year-old convention center in April.

“I would just as soon get out of the business of entertainment,” Leyens said.

Leyens asked the legal department to look into whether an amendment can be made to the contract for the convention center, but city officials may face a greater problem.

One thing that was not clear is if the city truly owns the auditorium.

Young said the city was forced to hand over ownership of the auditorium in 1992 after a fire damaged the facility’s roof and the city needed state help for repairs.

City accountant John Smith said the city has since operated the facility but it belongs to the state.

Leyens asked the city’s legal department to research ownership.

Compass, the contract manager for six facilities in the Midwest, receives $8,333 a month to manage the convention center. The center’s budget is also supplemented by the city. The Compass-Vicksburg contract includes an incentive clause for the company, based on attendance, operating losses, usage, city satisfaction and hotel occupancy in the city.

In other matters the board:

Authorized City Clerk Walter Osborne Jr. to advertise for sealed bids for police uniform accessories.

Took no action on a request for a waiver to sell alcohol at the River City Rocks concert on July 21 at City Park after the request was withdrawn.

Awarded certificates of commendations to employees in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Approved a request by King Solomon M.B. Church to barricade a portion of the 1400 block of Farmer Street on July 28 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., for a community block extravaganza.

Authorized $500 for advertising with the Red Carpet Bowl.

Approved a request for a three-way stop at Vicklan and McArthur.

Declared Whitfield Recycling in breach of contract for disposal of white goods and authorized negotiations for a contract with Keyes Iron and Metal Inc.

Authorized the mayor to execute an interlocal agreement between the city and Warren County for the waste day disposal on April 6.

Approved a change of address at 2942 1/2 Valley St. to 2923-A Highland Ave.

During a closed session, approved terminations in the sewer and custodial departments.